“Take These Words and Deliver Them to Another”

Alan C. Miner

Part of Nephi's prophecy about showing the words of the Book of Mormon to another included the Lord's command, "Take these words . . . and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned" (2 Nephi 27:15). According to McConkie and Millet, here is the prophetic word which attests that Martin Harris's trip to New York was based upon more than his own curiosity or desire for academic substantiation for the Book of Mormon translation. Joseph Smith was commanded of the Lord to send another, Martin Harris, to New York. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 322]

2 Nephi 27:15 Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned ([Illustration]): This document, which may be the original paper carried by Martin Harris to show Charles Anthon in New York City, presents some of the Book of Mormon characters. Courtesy Library Archives, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Auditorium, Independence, Missouri]

“Take These Words Which Are Not Sealed”

According to Carl Jones, the first archaeological evidence of a possible New World script which might be comparable to that of the Anthon Transcript was found on a cylindrical stamp reported in La Venta, Tabasco: A Study of Olmec Ceramics and Art (Drucker, 1952).

Another archaeological example of Anthon Transcript-like characters from the New World is the roller stamp found at Tlatlilco in the Valley of Mexico, now in the Milwaukee Public Museum, which was reported by David H. Kelley in the journal American Antiquity (Kelley, 1966). In his brief article Dr. Kelley went so far as to call this an example of a "hitherto unknown writing system." [Carl H. Jones, "The 'Anthon Transcript' and Two Mesoamerican Cylinder Seals," Newsletter and Proceedings of the S.E.H.A., Number 122, pp. 6-7]

2 Nephi 27:15 Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned ([Illustration]): Markings on the inscribed roller stamp ("cylinder seal") found at Tlatilco in the Valley of Mexico (bottom) and Anthon Transcript equivalents. [Carl H. Jones, "The 'Anthon Transcript' and Two Mesoamerican Cylinder Seals," Newsletter and Proceedings of the S.E.H.A., Number 122, p. 5]

“Take These Words and Deliver Them to Another”

In 2 Nephi 27:9-15 we find the following prophecy:

But behold, it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: Read this, I pray thee.

According to Wade Brown, verbal history testifies that Joseph gave the "words" from the plates he was translating to Martin Harris in the form of a transcript, and Martin Harris in turn presented this document to Professor Anthon. But is there any tangible proof?

There is a document containing Nephite script that passed into the custody of David Whitmer, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. It is believed by many that this document is the original Harris-Anthon Transcript. From Whitmer's estate it eventually passed to the leadership of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now titled the Community of Christ. That church has protected and cared for the document for well over 100 years. Wade Brown has spent 30 years studying this document. The following is a summary of his findings:

The strange script on the yellowing piece of paper has always been fascinating. Perhaps part of its appeal is the mystery surrounding its authenticity. It is really the Harris-Anthon Transcript? Who was the Nephite author(s) who composed it? What does it say? If Joseph copied it, is it copied accurately? Is it merely a passage from an internal part of the text or is it taken from a variety of separate plates?

Brown goes on to detail the almost 30 years of frustrated research in gaining an answer to the above questions until he one day made a chance observation. He was looking at an enlarged copy but then turned to a normal sized copy with a magnifying glass and noticed a repetition at the bottom of the page. After many years he finally saw that the last line of the document reflected part of what appeared to be a perfect inverted parallel. One point of the last line was the center of the inverted parallel but the last little part of the parallel had been cut off. When this center point was recognized then each repeated character on the last three lines of small print on the manuscript fell into place as expected to form about two-thirds of an inverted parallel (the last part being cut off).

In the days which followed, Brown was also able to structure the first four lines of large print into an additional inverted parallel. This one started at the beginning of the writing at the top of the document and continued completely to the end of the large print.

Brown explains that when he was young he thought that Joseph Smith just became tired of copying the strange characters of the Anthon Manuscript and his handwriting became weaker and smaller. This proved a naive opinion. After finding the two separate inverted parallel forms, he realized that the characters do not gradually become smaller, they are apparently sized for a purpose. The top 4 lines were apparently large because they were the overall introduction to a book--the 3 small bottom lines being a sub-introduction.

Using this newfound information, Brown found that Nephi used the same technique at the beginning to his book of 1st Nephi. The overall introduction at the very top of Nephi's first book provides a general statement explaining the colony of Lehi. The second introduction is a more personal introduction comprising 1 Nephi 1:1 through 1:3. In the first edition of the Book of Mormon, Nephi's first introduction was at the top of the printed page in large letters, and his secondary introduction was in smaller letters and was included within the text of the first chapter. This confirmed what Brown had suspected and led him to do further analysis. As a result of this analysis, Brown writes that if his theory is correct, the following facts are probably true:

1. The characters on the proposed Anthon Transcript are accurately copied from the Nephite plates. Otherwise, the established language patterns would not have been retained. These language patterns negate the critics' claim that the script on the transcript was the idle creation of Joseph Smith.

2. The script reads from right to left as suggested by Joseph Smith, rather than from left to right as in English and other modern languages.

3. The text wraps--each line is a continuation of previous thought, not an independent phrase.

4. Thus the transcript reflects identifiable Hebrew form in a transitory (shorthand) script. It truly was a form of shorthand which required less writing space than Hebrew.

5. In comparing the transitory script with the parallel patterns of the present Book of Mormon, no similarities to any portion of the text has been found.

6. Yet the enlarged text appears to be from the heading of a book.

7. So perhaps the text reflects the first page of the manuscript (Book of Lehi) which was lost by Martin Harris--the first page from the golden plates of the Book of Mormon..

8. Thus the Document held by the Community of Christ can be plausibly put forth as an authentic representation of characters which are inscribed on the golden plates.

9. While it might be possible to decipher the symbols through study, something that to the present time has been an exercise in frustration, it is also possible that decipherment will remain until the Lord directs his chosen servants to do so.

[C. Wade Brown, The First Page of the Golden Plates, pp. 55-92]

2 Nephi 27:9 2 Nephi 27:15 Take these words . . . and deliver them to another [[Illustration]]: The Text of the Anthon Manuscript. Two inverted parallel structures appear on the document when the text is formatted to illustrate separate phrases. The script reads from right to left. [C. Wade Brown, The First Page of the Golden Plates, pp. 80-81]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary